One of my goals for 2014 was to try colourwork in knitting. When I went through my knitting inspiration ideas on Pinterest I noticed that most of the colourwork images I'd pinned were only two colours, rather than the multi-coloured fair isle styles. The idea for this jumper came out of that observation. I didn't really want a striped piece this time; I was intrigued by the idea of doing a more "fluid" kind of design. As I thought about patterns in fabric that I like, I wondered whether a damask design would work. Unfortunately I couldn't find any knitting pattern even remotely like what was starting to form in my head.
My daughter has been getting into cross-stitch lately, and it occurred to me that gridded cross-stitch patterns are actually the same format as gridded knitting ones. Googling "repeated damask cross-stitch pattern" yielded me a pattern that I adored - this stylised floral one. I didn't want an all-over pattern, just a feature on the front, preferably with raglan sleeves. (Aside: I can't believe how hard it was to find a simple crew neck, raglan sleeved jumper with no side shaping! Every designer seems to want to put some twist on the basics...)
Anyhow, here's the end result:
And an close-up shot of the front:
The yarn is Cascade Heritage Silk (fingering weight), which I already had loads of after I unravelled my Still Light horror. (So this is technically a refashion!) I was able to get a skein of the same in black to do the colourwork in. I debated doing the ribbed hems in black also, but decided to keep it just to the damask in the end.
The yarn knits up into quite a drapey fabric, which I'd forgotten, but since I wanted a looser fit anyway that was fine. Here's one thing I learned - after I'd done one sleeve. If you're reusing yarn you've unravelled from a previous project, it knits up much more nicely if it's first wound into a skein, soaked and dried, then rewound into a ball; that gets rid of all the crimping. Thus one sleeve here is noticeably neater than the other.
The cross stitch pattern worked just as well as I hoped, although there was a lot of working out how to centre it and where to start the pattern before knitting began. And the front was assuredly not TV knitting! Silence and solitude were the bywords here. Painstaking note-taking was also vital, so as not to forget where I was up to...
The pattern I ended up using was the Simple All Age Raglan Sweater by Elizabeth Lowick, which is a useful one to have, accommodating 15 sizes (really!) from 24" up to a 66" chest. This had the straight sides (didn't want to have to worry about shaping as well as the colourwork...) and raglan lines that I was after. This polo neck I thought would be an easy modification to a crew one - just don't knit as much. Although I wasn't as happy with the sleeves. I'm not nearly as confident changing knitting patterns as I am sewing ones, so even when I found that the sleeve increases seemed to be happening very quickly, I wasn't sure whether I should adjust them or trust the pattern. As it turned out, I probably should have trusted my gut instinct:
The sleeves ended up with a really pronounced angle, and really looked awful on (think chicken wings...). I could have unravelled and started them again, but instead I took a very deep breath - several, actually - and researched steeking. Steeking, in my admittedly limited experience, seems to be used mostly for cardigans knitted in the round (especially ones in a detailed pattern). Once the garment is knitted, a sewing machine is used to sew down either side of where the opening will be and then the garment is cut open between the stitching lines. In theory, the stitching stops any unravelling. In theory...
Someone had written that you can't spell "steek" without "eek!", and that's true enough! I tried the jumper on and pinned the arms to the width I preferred. Then I sewed down that pinned line, first in a straight stitch and then a zigzag to be sure. And then to be surer, I overlocked. It seemed to work ok, but it took a little bit of care to ensure the sleeves didn't stretch and ripple along the seam line. The insides of the sleeves aren't nearly as neat as a tidy mattess stitch would have been, but the jumper is wearable now, and that's the point as far as I'm concerned!
So it's not perfect, but I really do love it. It's a garment that - design-wise at least - came out of my own head and was exactly what I wanted it to be. When I wear it, I'm not only reminded of how satisfying making my own clothes is, but also that I can trust my own instincts when it comes to experimenting. You don't get that with RTW!
What's your most satisfying sewing or knitting experiment? Do share!